Fabulous Fernandez

Israel manager earns contract extension after Latvia win


Luis Fernandez, the Israel manager, has been given a contract extension following Israel's victory over Latvia which kept alive their Euro 2012 qualification hopes.

First-half strikes from captain Yossi Benayoun and defender Tal Ben Haim kept Israel in contention for next year's finals with a 2-1 success in Riga.

Victory for the top two mean that Israel remain in third place in Group F, a point behind the leaders Greece and level on points with second placed Croatia, although Israel has played a game more.

After the match, Israel FA chairman Avi Luzon confirmed that Fernandez, whose two-year contract expires next June, will be offered the chance to lead the team's 2014 World Cup campaign.

Luzon said: "Due to the great appreciation the Israel FA and the players have for Fernandez, the feeling is that the coach should continue for another term, even if the team doesn't reach the Euro finals."

Luzon said that he was impressed with the way Fernandez had blooded a new generation of young Israeli players, including Tal Ben Haim, Omer Damari, Rami Gershon, Almog Cohen and Tomer Hemed, who caught the eye on his international debut. Watched by Rangers coach Ian Durrant, Hemed set up Israel's first goal with a deft pass for Benayoun to fire home in the 19th minute.

Israel doubled the lead on the stroke of half time after Yuval Shpungin was brought down in the penalty area. Portsmouth's Ben Haim scored from the spot following a dispute with Benayoun, Israel's regular penalty-taker. The Chelsea midfielder admitted after the game that he had agreed to let Ben Haim take a penalty if the team was leading, to enable him to score his first-ever goal for Israel.

The visitors survived a last-minute scare when the other Tal Ben Haim, who had come on as a substitute, made a crucial goalline clearance.

Benayoun said: "I can't remember the last time we won three games in a row. We are really firmly in the picture now to get to the finals but we must beat Greece."

Israel has three matches remaining. They take on Greece and Croatia in September followed by a final qualifier in Malta in October. Seven points will assure Israel a top two finish.

Fernandez, who played for France for 10 years, said: "The important thing now is that our fate lies in our own hands. I've a feeling that we are going to spring a surprise."

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